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Cast Iron Dutch Oven - Do I Need One?

I've got a chance to buy a new LC 5.5 quart round DO for $80. I know it's a great price, but I don't know if I need it. Here's the deal -

I'm more of a stovetop cook, I don't often use the oven except for roasting. I'm not into braising. I do make a lot of soups.

I'm usually cooking for 2. Can I roast a chicken (5-6lbs) in the 5.5 quart round? I think that if I can, it might make for easier gravy preps than my roasting pan. I'm also thinking that because of it's smaller surface, I'd be less likely to burn the fond, which I've done. But will the bird fit?

Am I better off with an oval DO? Will it work on an induction hob? What size would you recommend for me?

Should I stick with 2 pans, the roaster and soup pot? My roaster won't work on induction, so if this pan fits my needs, it's a good deal, being about the same price as the SS DO I've been considering.

Finally, what will it do better than a SS DO?

As you can see, I've got a lot to learn about cast iron ovens and I know you're the people who can educate me.

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  1. That's a great deal! I'd snap it up! I have a Staub DO (about 5 qt) and use it a lot. I'm usually cooking for 1 or 2. Oddly, one thing I've not used my DO for is roasting chicken (use my roasting pan for that. But soups, stews, and no-knead bread for sure. If you don't do much of that, then you might want to reconsider a DO (or buy it for $80 and sell it for $90!)

    I find that both Staub and Le Creuset clean up well.

    1 Reply
    1. re: nofunlatte

      Interesting you mention no-knead bread. I like a saucepan for that, because with it's smaller surface area, it gives me a rounder loaf than my SS DO. I've done it in my 4.5 quart pan, but think a 3.5-4 quart size would work even better.

    2. I use my dutch ovens on the stovetop almost as much as in the oven. If you are a stovetop cook, the round will suit you better, it's hard to get adequate heat to the wings in an oval on the stovetop for browning. Yes a chicken will fit, but for roasting the open sides of a roaster would be best. You could stew a chicken in it easily. You can deep fry on the stovetop in it as well. The 5.5 is probably the most popular size of the LC, it can fill a lot of needs. Great for soups/stews, long simmered pasta sauce etc.
      I can't believe you stopped to write a post about it, had I found a LC 5.5 for $80, I'd have grabbed it!

      10 Replies
        1. re: Cam14

          Well, the color is Fennel, which I don't find very exciting. Would that make a difference to you?

          LOL

          1. re: Cam14

            After I posted this morning, it occurred to me that I'd forgotten the heat retention of CI for deep frying. I've used any number of SS pans for that task, from saucepans to DO to a deep frypan. Even used my saucier a time or two. To my credit, I keep my Thermapen handy to make sure the oil recovers between batches and don't crowd it with big batches of food.

            The thought of still needing a roasting pan is depressing. I can bake lasagna in a loaf pan (only need a small batch) and had planned to give both my small and large roasters to my son. I'm tired of storing them. There's got to be a solution for me. I know, I'll ask the Google machine. It knows everything!

            1. re: DuffyH

              You don't need an 'official' roasting pan for chicken. We roast our chickens on a jelly roll baking sheet or sometimes in the cast iron fry pan or the 12" All Clad skillet, depending on size or qty. I don' t eat the skin either but the crispy outside seems to make a juicy inside. See Thomas Keller's You Tube vid on roasted chicken. Simple and fantastic! The only time I drag out the big roaster is Thanksgiving.

              1. re: Cam14

                Cam,

                I've got 2 roasters, a huge one that will (barely) fir a 23-lb bird, and a much smaller anodized one that I was given as wedding gift and has been my go-to chicken pan since day one. But because it's HA, I'll only be able to use it in the oven and that's not good enough. So I'll just use another existing pan. As you say, most anything will work.

                I did try Keller's method once, when I had the room in my fridge, but the veg soaked up so much of the juices that there wasn't enough left for really great gravy. I can make a decent gravy without drippings, but it's just not the same. I'll stick with the slower roast and fabulous gravy.

                Both of my roasters will take up residence at my son's house where I'll have easy access for holiday birds. Best of both worlds for me! :)

              2. re: DuffyH

                Google says since I normally cook birds at 350ºF I can use most any old pan, even my Pyrex. Come to think of it, Pyrex is a good idea, because I have a habit of grabbing frypans and skillets by their handles without pausing to consider whether they're hot. Since Pyrex only gets used in the oven, I KNOW I need potholders to pick it up.

                So back to the DO, leaving chickens and such out of the equation.

                1. re: DuffyH

                  I use a Pyrex for roasting a chicken. Do you make pot roast? I can't think of anything better for a pot roast than a cast iron dutch oven! Also, for inspiration, go to Amazon and browse the dutch oven recipe books.

                  1. re: kimbers324

                    Thanks for the rec. Kimbers. Heading there now.

                2. re: DuffyH

                  I wonder how much difference cast iron v stainless steel makes when it comes to deep fat frying, and specifically with regard to the recovery time (e.g. oil at 375F, put in food, temp drops to 300F)

                  Assume 5L pot. In cast iron this weighs about 10lb, or 4.5kg. I'm guessing a similar size stainless steel would be half the weight (doesn't need to be as thick to be as strong). Heat capacity for iron (and steel) is about .46 kj/kg/K.

                  Assume 3L of oil, about about 2.7kg. Heat capacity is 1.67 kj/kg/K

                  So the oil is about 4.5 kj/K.

                  Whole cast iron pot is 2 kj/K
                  Stainless pot is 1 kj/K

                  So even with a heavy cast iron pot, more than 2x as much heat is stored in the hot oil than the pot itself.

                  1. re: paulj

                    That's excellent, paul. Thanks for doing the math. I do know that my CI skillet doesn't lose as much heat as my SS of similar volume, but the entire frying process takes about the same amount of time. Perhaps the faster recovery time of the SS cancels out the retention of the CI?

                    By frying in small batches in the SS, I get results (food-wise) that are the same as I get with the CI.

              3. Some possible distinctions:

                Bare cast iron, or enameled cast iron?

                Dutch ovens designed for home use (stove top and oven) or camp use (with coals above and below)?

                roasting a chicken - do you want a crisp skin? An open roasting pan, possibly with a gratting, exposes the whole bird to the hot dry oven air. A deep dutch oven exposes most of the bird to moist air. Only the top gets crisp. That's without the lid. With the lid, you are braising, not roasting.

                A large enough stainless steel pot with a multiply base will give more even heating when used on the stove top (or induction). Cast iron is even heating only in the oven. But in the over, everything heats evenly.

                10 Replies
                1. re: paulj

                  In order -

                  Enameled

                  Home use

                  I don't care, because I don't eat the skin. But others do, yeah. They like it crisp.

                  1. re: paulj

                    Excellent insight as always, Paul. I do love Dutch Oven, but not a fan of enameled cast iron Dutch Oven. For many things, a multiple ply stainless steel pot can easily deliver the same result or better.

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      Chem,

                      Is there anything the enameled DO will do better than clad SS?
                      As I said somewhere up above, It will have better heat retention for deep frying, but that's not been a problem for me, with smallish batches and a Thermapen.

                      I'm still planning to pick up a flat CS or CI wok, which could also work for a fryer, yeah?

                      If all is equal, I'd just as soon buy a SS DO, for easy cleaning, light weight, and flat-out durability.

                      1. re: DuffyH

                        A cast iron dutch oven rules the kitchen when you have an oven or stove that doesn't heat evenly. Premium stainless steel will work well too but, generally is cost prohibitive for most people.

                        As a poor college student, my cookware choices were cheap so it was either Revere Ware thin stainless steel or cheap Lodge cast iron from Wal-Mart. I could scorch anything with low heat in that worthless Revere Ware cookware and would probably have starved or at least been malnourished if I hadn't converted to old school Lodge cast iron.

                        1. re: Sid Post

                          Sid,

                          Heating evenly is just one of the many important things. For example, the scorching you noticed in your Revere Ware is likely due to two characters. First is that food readily stick to stainless steel. This increases food burning including liquid food. Second, Revere Ware does not distribute heat well, which creates hot spots and also causing food burning.

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            The Revere Ware I had was the thin stuff that had a copper plating on the bottom. Boiling water for pasta, I could see the pattern of the electric coil in the steam bubbles. As a young man who had no real cooking skills, these were really bad pans to learn to cook with.

                            Cream of Chicken soup, mashed potatoes, etc. were all easily scorched by this young novice cook.

                            1. re: Sid Post

                              As a young married, many of my friends had those copper bottom pans. The recurved handles were pretty. None of us could cook worth a damn at the time, but our young kids would eat anything, and our sailor spouses were glad to be onshore and away from the chow hall with it's fine fare.

                              We ate a lot of spaghetti, and burgers when the guys were home to grill. Thanks for raising those memories, Sid. Those were the days!

                              1. re: DuffyH

                                My first set of pots were a 2qt Revere Ware (just like what my mom had), an 8" cast iron skillet, and 1.5 qt pyrex (whose lid fit the skillet).

                                I still have the skillet. The sauce pan was replaced by a house guest who burned the original. But I don't recall being bothered by scorching or uneven heating in the sauce pan.

                                A few years later I bought a cast iron chicken fryer, a deep 10" skillet with lid, in effect a dutch oven with stick handle.

                                Other variations on the theme that I have are:
                                - 3qt stainless steel 'dutch oven' (like a sauce pan but with loop handles)
                                - 5qt enamel steel 'dutch oven', my largest. Not even heating on the stove top, but fine in the oven
                                - 3qt aluminum dutch oven - with a rimmed lid for coals. Nice all around pan for its size
                                - 3qt Spanish cazuela with lid - earthenware. $24 at CostPlus. Start slow on gas flame, keeps contents bubbling on the lowest possible flame.

                                1. re: paulj

                                  My very first pots and pans were Le Creuset. The entire line. I was not yet 21, preggers with my only child, just out of the Navy, had no idea how to cook anything yet, and I won these pans on a game show.

                                  Sadly, they weren't very popular here in the U.S. and no one I knew had ever owned them, no one knew how to cook on them. I managed with them, and they were great for bringing foods right to the table, but I never did like them much, because I'd no idea how to cook on these strange things.

                                  I had 3 oval ovens, 2 or 3 rounds, saucepans, a narrow loaf pan, 3 each of skillets and frypans, plus lots of square, oval and round casseroles, some tall, some shallow. The casseroles had lovely fluted handles.

                                  The best part? MSRP was $275. Seriously! Colors were Flame, blue, brown and yellow.

                              2. re: Sid Post

                                I actually had them. They are not really that bad. They just aren't what I would want now.

                    2. You can't go wrong with having a few good DO around. I have 6. My largest is 168 lbs.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: JB BANNISTER

                        168 lbs, JB? Are we talking about the same thing? :)

                        1. re: DuffyH

                          I have some for indoor cooking and cooking over coals or fire. These are some pretty bad a** ovens. They make them in oblong shapes and can even personalize them. The site is not working on my tablet but here it is. http://www.macaovens.com/ I want my next one to be a big oblong one so I can cook some whole beef shanks.

                          1. re: JB BANNISTER

                            JB, it looks like they're getting out of the DO market. You might want to see if they've got what you want in stock. From the website:

                            "May 10, 2013

                            Effective immediately, MACA Supply Company is discontinuing our line of Dutch Ovens."

                            1. re: JB BANNISTER

                              Those things are great. I expect a witch or a wizard would have one of those. As well as regular non witch/wizard types that have lots of friends.

                        2. That's the size I use almost all the time for two of us. I use it on top of the stove quite a lot, too, for chili, making soups and stock, clams, mussels, tagines...

                          It's a great size for pot roasts and short ribs and other braises, too.

                          1. FWIW I'm a vegetarian and I cook mostly on the stove-top. Two person household.

                            This is the ONLY piece of LC that I own and I use it often (2X per week or more). Mostly for soup and stews, also for curries.

                            I like SS too.I use my 2 qt. quite a bit. I think the combo of a 2 qt SS pot, plus the dutch oven plus a fry pan (cast iron?) would make for a pretty basic, yet complete kitchen (add a sharp 8"knife, simmer and stir til tasty....).